The ECRE Weekly Bulletin provides information about the latest European developments in the areas of asylum and refugee protection.ECRE is a pan-European alliance of 90 NGOs protecting and advancing the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons.If you would like to know more about ECRE’s advocacy work, policy positions, press releases and projects, please visit our website at, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

1 July 2016

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Softex camp in Northern Greece.
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ECRE organises a Seminar on Social Innovation for Refugee Inclusion

How can social innovation and social innovators contribute to the integration of refugees in European societies? In collaboration with the U.S. Mission to the European Union, the Council of Europe and the European Economic and Social Committee, ECRE is organising a seminar on the topic of “Social Innovation for Refugee Inclusion”.

The seminar will take place in Brussels on 12-13 September and speakers will range from refugee groups to civil society organisations, cities, tech companies, start-ups, and private sector representatives.

Integration is and will increasingly be a pressing issue on the EU and national political agendas, as more and more asylum seekers are granted a status and will require proper integration policies and practices. The seminar intends to showcase and discuss the new innovative initiatives which flourished all over Europe to respond to the specific needs of refugees and asylum seekers, triggered by the humanitarian emergencies, first outside and then inside Europe.

Attendance to the event is free of charge, but registration is required and available through this link.


European Council adopts migration compact despite NGOs statement

In light of the European Council meetings on 28-29 June, a large group of NGOs released a statement asking EU leaders to reject the dangerous European Commission Framework Partnership proposal which aims to use aid, trade and other funds as leverage to encourage countries to reduce the number of migrants reaching EU shores. Unfortunately EU leaders decided to adopt the Framework Partnership proposal despite the call from ECRE, Amnesty International, Save the Children, Oxfam and 120 other human rights, humanitarian, medical, migration and development organisations.

The NGOs called on European leaders to exclude any conditionality based on migration control indicators in the allocation of development aid to third countries. “Development aid is a tool to fight poverty and inequality, not to manage migration. Vulnerable populations should not be punished because of concerns that are largely political,” the statement reads.

The adopted proposal contains no safeguards to ensure that human rights, rule of law standards and protection mechanisms when the EU strikes deals with governments it deems useful for stopping migration to Europe. These governments include countries with a poor human rights record, such as Sudan and Eritrea, countries where a large share of refugees flee from. ECRE’s Aspasia Papadopoulou warned that this EU pressure could result in those countries increasing the use of detention or border enforcement. “Partner countries will be well aware that they have their own leverage in the form of would-be migrants and asylum seekers hoping to reach Europe. They’ll negotiate hard to get what they want out it,” Papadopoulou states.

The European Council justifies its adoption by stating that ‘In the Central Mediterranean, flows of migrants - most of whom are not in need of international protection - remain at the same level as last year and have to be reduced, thus saving lives and breaking the business model of smugglers’, thereby neglecting the real risk of preventing refugees’ access to asylum and avoiding its responsibility. By ignoring the call of the NGOs the European Council also ignores all the evidence that deterrence strategies aimed at stopping migration are ineffective. The EU’s current approach will not only fail to ‘break the business-model’ of smugglers but will increase human suffering as people will be forced into taking more dangerous routes to reach Europe.

For further information:


ECRE members urge UK government to uphold refugees’ rights after EU referendum

After the results of the referendum on the membership of the European Union, where a majority of voters in the United Kingdom decided to leave the EU, many UK ECRE members, including the British Refugee Council, Refugee Action and the Scottish Refugee Council called upon UK leaders to uphold their commitment to refugees’ rights.

“Even ‘out’, Britain must work with European states to share responsibilities in hosting refugees and guaranteeing their humane treatment,” stated the British Refugee Council. “No mainstream politician spoke against Britain being a safe haven for refugees,” reminded Refugee Action.  

“Previous British leaders helped to establish the international laws protecting people fleeing violence and persecution. Unravelling those protections for the world’s most vulnerable would be a travesty,” warned 14 refugee-assisting organisations in a joint letter to The Times.

The Scottish Refugee Council highlighted that the majority of Scottish voters expressed themselves in favour of remaining part of the EU and urged Scotland to “continue to be a beacon for how we treat those in need of protection and safeguard their rights”.

A concerning increase in the number of racist attacks against migrants and citizens with a migrant background living in the UK has been reported after the results of the referendum, and groups on social media are monitoring and reporting violence and verbal harassment as they happen. Amnesty International launched a campaign to combat the rise of hate speech and racial abuse since the referendum results and has issued an urgent call to local authorities to condemn all attacks and ensure that all incidents are properly investigated.

While immigration and the so-called “refugee crisis” was one of the key topics during the referendum campaigns, the UK has only been marginally touched by the increase in refugee arrivals during the past year. In addition, the country is not party to the relocation programme and maintains opt-out clauses from most EU asylum legislation.

For further information:


Unaccompanied children face unsafe conditions in Italian hotspots, says HRW

On 23 June, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report highlighting the harrowing conditions faced by unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the Pozzallo hotspot. During their visit on 9 June 2016, HRW found that the centre was hosting 365 asylum seekers – over double the hotspot’s capacity – of whom 185 where unaccompanied children. The report states that unaccompanied children under the age of 15 are not allowed to leave the guarded centre and concludes that the hotspot fails to safeguard the rights of unaccompanied children arriving in Italy.
“Pozzallo is no place for a child, much less for extended periods of time,” said HRW’s Judith Sunderland. “It is unacceptable that young, vulnerable children without family members remain there for weeks, while adults are normally transferred within three days”.
HRW documents that the Pozzallo centre presents several harsh and unsafe conditions:  significant shortages of shelter with children sleeping on the ground; no separate washroom facilities for children; lack of psychological support for traumatised children; and the inability of children to call their parents and/or other relatives upon arrival. As a result, children are being placed at risk of sexual abuse and violence from adults, the report concludes.
HRW, therefore, calls for the immediate establishment of first-arrival centres specifically designed for unaccompanied children. The report also calls for the creation of a national database to track the number of available places at longer-term centres, in order to allow for the swift transfer of unaccompanied children to adequate reception facilities. Additionally, HRW calls on the European Commission to ensure that unaccompanied children are not held in EU-sponsored hotspots for longer than is strictly necessary. Most importantly, the operation of hotspots should be in accordance with international human rights law and the EU Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors, which states that children should be separated from adults and be provided with appropriate accommodation, and that detention should only be used in exceptional cases.
ECRE member, the Italian Council for refugees, has also reported on the placement of unaccompanied minors with adults in hotspot facilities in Italy, which is in violation of Constitutional Law.

Victims of torture are falling through the cracks of asylum systems, IRCT says

A regional report released this week by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)  documents the difficulties faced by torture victims in effectively engaging with the asylum procedures in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden. IRCT examines the implementation of the EU Asylum Procedures Directive and the Reception Conditions Directive in those Member States and documents how the countries receive, process and support torture victims. The report shows that these Member States do not have a procedure to systematically identify victims of torture, who consequently risk not having access to rehabilitation programmes, being placed in immigration detention or not having a fair determination of their asylum claim. As a consequence of this lack of identification procedures, crucial physical and psychological evidence of torture to support the asylum claim is often not collected and victims go through inflexible processes not suitable for their particular situation.  

“As the process of reforming the Common European Asylum System begins to take shape over the coming months, it is vital that EU decision-makers ensure that the new system effectively supports torture victims seeking protection in the EU by systematically identifying them and putting in place supportive measures. We know how to do this and we know that it works to address the suffering of torture victims and provide them with the protection they are entitled to,” stated Asger Kjærum, Director of Advocacy of the IRCT.

In this respect, the IRCT recommends that Member States refrain from detaining victims, and rather grant them access to adequately funded rehabilitation services, and to a full medico-legal examination of their torture allegations free of  charge (in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol). Moreover, any vulnerability and possible psychological traumatisation should be taken into account when developing the refugee status determination process, for instance by considering that torture victims suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome are often unable to accurately recount their experiences in a consistent way over time.

For further information:  

IRCT Symposium: Early bird registration extended until 31 July

The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) will hold a Scientific Symposium from 5 to 7 December in Mexico City. The IRCT has now extended the deadline for the early bird registration for the Scientific Symposium until 31 July.

The Symposium is the first global event to look in detail across disciplines at how to deliver on the promise of the right to rehabilitation for torture survivors. Up to 450 participants from across regions and professions are expected to attend the event.
The event is jointly hosted by the IRCT and Colectivo Contra la Tortura and is being held prior to the IRCT General Assembly, which runs from 8 to 9 December.




Copyright © 2016 European Council on Refugees and Exiles, All rights reserved.

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